The long shadow of Collusion

I saw a very interesting yet chilling documentary on TG4 this evening which focused on the case of Eddie Fullerton, the Sinn Féin councillor from Donegal who was killed by the UDA in the early 90s.

The programme was extremely interesting as it exposed both the inadequacy of the Garda investigation into his death as well as the clear evidence of involvement by British Security forces. Eddie was killed at his Donegal home in May 1991. According to the programme, later that night Gardai were seen removing documents from his house. These Gardai were acting in an unofficial capacity as the local station has no record of their actions nor has the action ever been accounted for. The documents taken were subsequently returned to the family by a member of the Gardai who was eventually named by the Morris Tribunal as having been involved in corruption, however the family do not believe that all the documents taken were returned. The programme explained these strange circumstances as being part of attempts by various people to overturn the ban on Gaming machines in Donegal which Eddie had campaigned to bring about. Before he died Eddie has twice been handed blank cheques, the first time in an attempt to bribe him to allow the return of the gaming machines and the second time to assure his silence about the first bribe. Both times Eddie refused the cheques, his principles were not for sale.

When the family returned to their home they found traces of hair which had not been taken by the Gardai for examination. It seems that the Gardai investigation of the death of an elected representative left an awful lot to be desired. The programme said that the only thing which the Guards have been willing to say for certain about Eddie Fullerton’s death is that the reason given for killing by the UDA, that Eddie was passing information to the IRA, was untrue and that Eddie Fullerton was not in the IRA. The Gardai were unwilling to appear on the programme or make any defence for their incompetency in this case or the possible reasons behind it.

But even more disturbing was the revelations about the role played by British Security force in the planning of the killing. According the programme, various sources have named British agents as being involved in the killing. The programme also told of a witness who saw three suspects dressed in paramilitary uniform being whisked away from a spot in Derry that night by what the witness described as an unmarked RUC car. When the witness went to the RUC, they were initially uninterested but later an RUC man and a Guard paid the witness a visit at his home where they allegedly asked the name if he could identify the faces, when he said that he could not, the RUC officer and Garda relaxed. It was also remarked on the programme that the entire operation seem far too organised and calculated to have been carried out by the UDA alone. Killing political representatives in their homes during a planned attack was not the hallmark of the UDA, they were more likely to simply drive around looking for a random Catholic to target.

This killing seems to bear all the hallmarks of collusion and the wrong of collusion was compounded by the failure of An Gardai Siochana to properly investigate the murder. Watching the programme, nobody could be left in any doubt that this was simply another Loyalist raid. Former RUC man Johnston Brown spoke at length about the likelihood of RUC/ Loyalist collusion and how he had come into contact with a Loyalist RUC agent who told him that his handlers had given him a picture of Eddie Fullerton. There were undoubtedly darker forces at work in this case and Eddie was most likely victim of the British plot to use Loyalist paramilitaries to curtail the growth of Sinn Féin by whatever means necessary. The family have constantly campaigned for an independent inquiry into his death and their calls must surely be answered if those in charge have any interest in justice.

Within the next 18 months, Donegal will most likely see its first Sinn Féin TD elected. Whoever that person is, they would be wise to pay a tribute to the bravery of Eddie Fullerton whose hard work and dedication paved the way for Sinn Féin success in Donegal. The sad pity is that Eddie did not live to enjoy the fruits of his labour.

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